Labels With Shortcomings – Analogue Productions

We Don’t Need an Analog Revival If It Means Sound As Wrong As This

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Acoustic Sounds had Stan Ricker remaster this record a number of years ago, and of course they (he) ruined it. A twinkly top end and flabby bass were just two of the major shortcomings of their version.

Nothing surprising there, as Stan Ricker is famous for his “smile” curve, boosting both ends of the audio spectrum whether they need boosting or not. 

And half-speed mastered bass is almost always bloated and ill-defined.

If you add too much top end to a guitar record and ruin the sound of the guitar, how can anyone take you seriously?

Please note that not a single title from the Analog Revival series is any good, to the best of my knowledge, and all should be avoided. The same is true for all the 180 gram jazz titles on Analogue Productions mastered by Doug Sax, as you may have read elsewhere on the site.

Those records received rave reviews in the audiophile press when they came out, but you won’t find too many audiophile reviewers sticking up for them now, as they are, without exception, murky, compressed disasters of the worst kind.

I guess these reviewers eventually acquired equipment accurate enough to notice how bad those pressings are, which I guess goes to show there is hope for practically anyone!

Led Zeppelin III – Hot Stampers vs. The World

One of our good customers has started writing a blog which he calls

A GUIDE FOR THE BUDDING ANALOG AUDIOPHILE

Below is a link to a comparison Robert carried out with various pressings of Led Zeppelin III.

Led Zeppelin 3: Audiophile Record Collecting During the Trump Era

The Classic has of course been a member of our Hall of Shame on the site since the day it came out. We have a section on this blog for records that don’t sound good (the case with the Classic) or have weak music (definitely not the case!), which can be found here.

Classic Records

was an awful record label from day one. The link above will take you to some of our reviews of their rock records.

We also have sections for their jazz and classical offerings.

Steppenwolf – Gold: Their Great (But Awful Sounding) Hits on Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl

There is a story behind how I got my mitts of this particular Heavy Vinyl pressing.

Months ago a fellow contacted us to buy some of our Hot Stamper pressings.  We sent him one or two, and he soon wrote back to say he was not happy with the sound. We exchanged emails with him on a number of occasions, trying to rectify the situation and get him records he would be happy with.

In the middle of all this back and forth, a discussion we had crossed over into Heavy Vinyl territory, specifically were there any that he liked the sound of?  Why yes, there were.

You guessed it. The above-pictured album is one he recommended. (There was another he also said we should try, but after playing this one we decided against buying any more records he liked the sound of, as you will see.)

So, a number of months ago we finally got around to cracking the seal and playing our newly remastered Heavy Vinyl LP.

Right from the get-go, thick, murky, compressed, lifeless, ambience-free, dead-as-a-doornail sound started to come out of my speakers. Like sludge from a sewer you might say. What the hell was going on?

I quickly grabbed a Super Hot copy off the shelf and put it on the table.

Here was the energy, clarity, richness, space and more that had been missing mere moments before while playing the Heavy Vinyl pressing. Now, coming out my speakers was everything that makes a good vintage pressing such a joy to listen to. I felt like turning it up and rocking out. The first song is Born to Be Wild. Who doesn’t love to blast Born to Be Wild?

What a difference. Night and Day. Maybe more!

As I was thinking about the turgid, compressed, veiled, overly smooth but not tonally incorrect sound coming out of my speakers, I thought back about the kinds of stereo systems that can produce that sound on command. They often look like the one you see below.

If this is your idea of good sound, you are in luck. You can buy your Limited Edition Heavy Vinyl audiophile pressings from Acoustic Sounds to your heart’s content.  They’re sure cheaper than our records, and they apparently do a bang up job of giving you precisely the sound you’re looking for on vinyl.

To finish up with our little story, to no one’s surprise we never could satisfy our new customer. We ended up refunding him all his money. It seems our records were expensive, and simply not much better than records he owned or could find cheaply enough.  Ours might be even worse! Who the hell do we think we are?  The nerve.

I also know he wasn’t playing them on an old console. He took great pains to tell me all about his fancy handmade tonearm, custom tube preamp and screen speakers. State of the Art stuff in his mind, no doubt about it.

But if your system is so ridiculously bad that an Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl LP doesn’t call attention to its manifold shortcomings, doesn’t actually make your head hurt and your blood boil at the very idea that someone would charge money for such bad sound, you might want to think about scrapping your precious audiophile equipment and starting over.

Of course, this guy and the thousands of other audiophiles like him would never do such a thing. They are thoroughly invested in whatever approach to audio they have taken, and nobody can teach them anything.  They already know more than you.

They’re also the ones keeping hopelessly incompetent labels like Analogue Productions in business.  They supported Classic Records before it went under, they support Mobile Fidelity to this day. They are the guys that buy Heavy Vinyl records and extoll their virtues on audiophile forums far and wide.  Some even make youtube videos about this crap now and get tens of thousands of hits.

It’s sad, but there is nothing we can do but keep on doing what we are doing: finding good pressings for audiophiles who can appreciate the difference.

Another way we can help is this. Use the guide below when you do your shootouts for records, Heavy Vinyl and otherwise. Perhaps you will avoid the mistakes the above-mentioned gentleman made.  We include them in practically every listening of every record we sell.

And this blog is full of advice explaining practically everything there is to know about records.

You may want to start here. (more…)

Muddy Waters Folk Singer – Vintage Vinyl Vs the Analogue Productions Modern Remaster

One of our good customers has started writing a blog which he calls

A GUIDE FOR THE BUDDING ANALOG AUDIOPHILE

Below is a link to a comparison Robert carried out between two pressings of Folk Singer.

I will post a few comments down the road.

Muddy Waters’ Folk Singer: Analogue Productions Takes On the ’70’s Repress

I have never heard the AP pressing, and have no plans at this time to play one, mostly because not a single one that I have heard on my system was any better than awful.

You can read some of my reviews here:

Analogue Productions

 

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – Good Digital Beats Bad Analog Any Day

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And this is some very bad analog indeed!

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 on Two Slabs of 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl – Reviewed in 2010

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record than this, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

As I noted in another commentary “Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads each with a track record more dismal than the next?”

It reminds me of the turgid muck that Doug Sax was cutting for Analogue Productions back in the ’90s. The CD has to sound better than this. There’s no way could it sound worse.

Update: I managed to track down a copy of the CD and it DOES sound better than this awful record, and by a long shot. It’s not a great sounding CD, but it sure isn’t the disaster this record is.

This is a very bad sounding record, so bad that one minute’s play will have you up and out of your chair trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with your system. But don’t bother. It’s not your stereo, it’s this record.

It has the power to make your perfectly enjoyable speakers sound like someone has wrapped them in four inches of cotton bunting. Presence? Gone! Transients? Who needs ’em! Ambience, Openness, Three-Dimensionality? Uh, will you consider settling for Murk, Bloat and Smear? There’s a Special on them today here at Acoustic Sounds. (more…)

The Not-So-Magnificent Thad Jones – More Dreck on Heavy Vinyl

After discovering Hot Stampers and the mind-blowing sound they deliver, a new customer generously sent me a few of his favorite Heavy Vinyl pressings to audition, records that he considered the best of the modern reissues that he owns.  He admitted that most of what he has on Heavy Vinyl is not very good, and now that he can clearly hear what he has been missing, having played some of our best Hot Stamper jazz pressings, he is going to be putting them up on Ebay and selling them to anyone foolish enough to throw their money away on this kind of junk vinyl.

We say more power to him.  That money can be used to buy records that actually are good sounding, not just supposed to be good sounding because they were custom manufactured with the utmost care and marketed at high prices to soi-disant audiophiles.

Audiophile records are a scam. They always have been and always will be.

The three of us who do the critical listening here at Better Records dropped the needle on the first disc in this set and, once the VTA was properly adjusted, gave it a chance to show us just what expert remastering from vintage mono tapes, at 45 RPM, on two slabs of luscious, thick vinyl, could do for the sound of Thad Jones’s trumpet, circa 1956.

None of us had ever heard the album on any media, vinyl or otherwise, but we know a good sounding jazz record when we hear one, and we knew pretty early on in the session that this was not a good sounding jazz record.  Two minutes was all it took, but we wasted another ten making sure it was as bad as we thought.

For those of you who might have trouble reading my handwriting, my notes read:

CD sound.

To my ear this disc does not sound much like the wonderful vintage analog recordings we play every day.  It might make a passable CD, but I have hundreds of CDs that sound better than this album, so even setting the bar that low, I would say it’s unlikely I would want to have this set in my collection.

Who can find the time to play a mediocrity such as this. And who needs the bother of flipping it over three times for less than ten minutes a side?  Buy the CD. It plays all the way through and costs a whole lot less.

Boosted sloppy bass.

By far the biggest problem with the sound. The bass is really boosted. It constantly calls attention to itself. It is the kind of sloppy, droning upper-bass that cannot be found on any RVG recording, none that I have ever heard anyway, and I’ve heard them by the hundreds.

You no doubt know about the phony boosted bass on the remastered Beatles albums. It’s that sound. Irritating in the extreme, and just plain wrong.

Good space.

The album’s best quality.  CDs can have good space, so why shouldn’t this CD-like record have some of that quality?

Still dry horns.

Not the sound of the horns that RVG is famous for.  Somebody screwed them up in the mastering.

Bad cutting equipment? Bad EQ? Both?

What else could it be?

Wears out its welcome.

Between the boosted bass and the dry horns, the sound of these remastered audiophile discs gets old fast.

Needs heavy tubes.

If you have an Old School Vintage Tube system with heavy tube colorations, you have the ideal system to get this record to sound better than it is, and better than I ever will.  As I have said many times on the site, a system like the one I owned in the ’70s (Audio Research) and again in the ’90s (McIntosh) would put me out of business today.

I need to know what is on the records I play, warts and all, not the euphonic colorations my stereo equipment wants me to hear.

No real top.

Space, yes, but not much air. Practically all the Heavy Vinyl records we play have no real extension on the top end. You can adjust your VTA until you’re blue in the face, it’s just not something these discs reproduce well.

RTI pressings are serial offenders in this regard.  We find them uniformly insufferable.

(more…)

The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds: Analogue Productions Takes on the Hot Stamper

One of our good customers has started writing a blog which he calls

A GUIDE FOR THE BUDDING ANALOG AUDIOPHILE

Below is a link to a comparison Robert carried out between two pressings of Pet Sounds – the Analogue Productions pressing and one of our Hot Stampers.

Pet Sounds: Analogue Productions Takes on the Hot Stamper

I have never heard the AP pressing, and have no plans at this time to play one, mostly because not a single one that I have heard on my system was any better than awful.

You can read some of my reviews here:

Analogue Productions

I wrote a very long review of their disastrous Tea for the Tillerman which you may find of interest:

Cat Stevens / Tea for the Tillerman – This Is Your Idea of Analog?

Classic Records Stops Making Bad Records But Acoustic Sounds Picks Up Where They Left Off

classicclaritybox

DATELINE 8/29/2010

Classic Records has officially gone under. They will not be missed, not by us anyway, except for this reason: to borrow a line from Richard Nixon, I guess we won’t have Classic Records to kick around anymore. We’ve been beating that dead horse since the day they started back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who care about such things.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, is one in which we awarded it an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have somehow managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop carrying them in 2010.) That ought to tell you something. Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing the shortcomings of bad records. At the same time, and much more importantly, better audio reveals more and more of the strengths and beauty of good records.

(Which of course begs the question of what actually is a good record — what it is that makes one record good and another bad — but luckily for you dear reader, you are actually on a site that has much to say about those very issues. Every Hot Stamper commentary is fundamentally about the specific attributes that make one copy of a given album better than another, and how much of them you’re getting for your money with the unique pressing on offer.)

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile as I’m sure you’ve read by now. It’s the reason Hot Stampers can and do sound dramatically better than their Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile counterparts: because your stereo is good enough to show you the difference.

With Old School equipment you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty years ago. Audio has improved immensely in that time. If you’re still playing Heavy Vinyl and Audiophile pressings there’s a world of sound you’re missing. We would love to help you find it.

One Hot Stamper just might be all it takes to get the ball rolling.

 

classic_records_acoustic

Oh no, someone is going to keep pressing Classic’s shitty records! And selling them!

And wouldn’t you know it’s the same guys who’ve been making bad records since before Classic got into the game.

I advised them to dump them in a landfill but they apparently had other ideas.

So now it’s one stop shopping for all the bad sounding Heavy Vinyl you might be foolish enough to buy. Or perhaps you were misguided by the ridiculous comments and reviews pedaled on audiophile websites extolling the virtues of these pressings.

Don’t believe a word of it. You can count the good sounding records put out by these guys on one hand.  I honestly cannot think of one I would have in my house to tell you the truth.

Shelly Manne – Sounds Unheard Of! – Another Analogue Productions Disaster

More Shelly Manne

More Sounds Unheard Of!

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

Remember the ’90s Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizzyiness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records, the phony top that many audiophiles do not seem bothered by to this day. 

The whole series was an audio disaster, but funnily enough, I cannot remember reading a single word of criticism in the audiophile press discussing the shortcomings of that series of (badly) half-speed mastered LPs — outside of my own reviews of course. Has anything in audio really changed?  (more…)

Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue – One Customer’s Take on the 45

More Kenny Burrell

More Midnight Blue

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A good customer had this to say about a recent shootout:

“By the way side 2 of Midnight Blue bested every other copy I played including the 45 RPM Blue Note [Analogue Productions] reissue. The 45 RPM is very good. You know that technically it is right, but at the same time it’s missing something. When I listened to the [Hot] stamper copy you dug up for me I found it a little noisy at first and wasn’t sure if I could live with it. However after returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…”

I know what you mean about these modern reissues “missing something”. No matter how well mastered they may be, they’re almost always missing whatever it is that makes the analog record such a special listening experience. I hear that “analog” sound practically nowhere else outside of the live event.  (more…)